Architectural Confusion in America

No need to wax on too much about this article (Why Ordinary Americans Reject Architectural Ideologues) from The American Conservative, which is about why so many Americans have been trained to reject traditional architecture by habit, yet are quietly drawn to traditional design as an inherent human instinct. I could not help by recall that a lot of this is discussed in Kunstler’s great book, the Geography of Nowhere, which offers a chronology of our culture’s departure from the timeless style of the globe’s traditional scale cities and towns to a national scale homogenized suburban collective.  Kunstler talks about how the shift from traditional ancient forms can be attributed to a lashback from the traditional power structure of yesteryear (slaveholders, industrial magnates, like Vanderbilt, etc.; and, more recently, the Nazi power structure in Germany who’s grand plan for the future was all massively Roman) to a sort of carnal curiosity for something we have not seen bevore (a la the artlike uniqueness of many modern 20th century buildings).  Again, I will not dive into this too deep (read the article); but the “artform” of modern architecture, while having its place, rarely (if ever) has a place in a community setting. Why does the contemporary architecture of downtown Atlanta or Houston look like any other new city (why are large modernst paintings on walls all to themselves)? Perhaps it’s because each new building is designed to stand on its own, not in relation to what is around it (Name a big glass building that compliments its neighbor?  On a residential scale, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is awesome… in its own setting; yet, I cannot necessarily see a collection of these on a boulevard). Yet for dozens of centuries, we have felt safe and lived together within human settlements of traditional scale framed by traditional (dare I say, “Sacred” design). Does this article tie into a broader discussion about values and how we have changed as a community with the knee jerk tendency to strive for the bog box and treeless parking lot over the small shop on main street? I think it does. Look at how our kids have changed along with the new trend to build new schools with zero traditional appeal on, what is in most cases, a Soviet scale.  But if I start going there, I will definitely be “waxing on.”

In the meantime, however, I am pleased with this article, not necessarily because it changes the discussion (many of us have been arguing this same point since the 80’s… others even greater, I am sure); but it shows that, perhaps, a story of this nature in a conservative journal may reflect a shift in awareness that, perhaps, is pointed in the right direction.


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